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Thomas Lennon on what it's like to be on the set of a Terrence Malick film

03.02.2016

Thanks to the non-stop interviews, talk-show appearances, and social media dispensing every detail about their lives, we know more about celebrities than we ever have, unless of course certain individuals go out of their way to avoid all that. KNIGHT OF CUPS director Terrence Malick is one such individual, despite his work on some of the more unique films of the past thirty years, Malick almost never gives interviews or talks about his films. Thanks to Business Insider sitting down with Thomas Lennon, we know that his sets are just as unique as the films he makes.

Back in 2012 Lennon got a call from his agent asking if he wanted to appear in Terrence Malick's newest film. Lennon agreed despite not being overly familiar with Malick's work, “I was aware of his name like you’re aware of names like Atom Egoyan or Ismail Merchant and James Ivory, artsy-fartsy films unlike the things I’m in or write.” Lennon wasn't given any details on what type of role he was supposed to play or what type of movie it was, and it wasn't until three days before the shoot that he was finally given some information. His scene would be at a Hollywood party so he he was told to dress as if he were going to a party in the Hollywood Hills. Upon arriving on the set and exchanging pleasantries with Malick, Thomas Lennon learned that there wasn't a script, only a slip of paper with a phrase to inspire him.

We’re all standing there and Malick hands out these pieces of paper to all of us, and the one he gave me said, "There’s no such thing as a fireproof wall." And I ask, "Is this something I’m supposed to say in the scene?" and he said, "I don’t know."And then Malick goes, ‘Would you like some more? Because I have a whole stack of these.’ And I was like, "I think I’m good."

Despite Thomas Lennon only appearing on screen for a minute, at most, shooting for the scene lasted eleven hours with Malick halting the shoot every so often to bring in new guests or let someone else try their hand at shooting the scene.

Sometimes we would go outside, where the party was growing with more people. Sometimes Malick would stop and introduce a new cinematographer: "Guys, this is Marta, she’s an up-and-coming DP from Mexico City and she’s going to film the scene for a while." And sometimes Christian would take a GoPro and shoot something.

Terrence Malick also instructed the actors "to make it as difficult as possible for the camera operator to shoot them, never standing in a way that they were squared up with the camera," which caused Lennon to be "unbelievably distressed" for the first few hours. After he got used to Malick's particular way of organizing things, he ended up having "the single most fun day I’ve ever had on a movie set ever."

What I realized was, Malick loves to be on his feet and just making movies, I don’t mean the editing, just the location, shooting a scene, and letting things happen. I mean, it was honestly an absolutely bats--- crazy day. But I would have instantly come back and done it another day if the opportunity came up.

KNIGHT OF CUPS will hit theaters on March 4, 2016.

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